Summer black truffles – one of the world’s most expensive ingredients – have been successfully cultivated in Scotland for the first time by a University of Stirling academic.
Dr Paul Thomas, a Research Associate at Stirling, cultivated the delicacy – which cost as much as £900 per kilogram – as part of a programme at a secret site south of Edinburgh.
The aromatic fungi has been growing in the root system of native oak trees, treated to encourage truffle production, and were harvested by a specially trained dog.
“This is a very highly regarded truffle species and the potential for Scotland is huge,” Dr Thomas said.
“We’ve achieved a number of world-firsts and even harvested Mediterranean Périgord truffles in the UK earlier this year, but this Scottish advance inches us closer to our ultimate goal of the UK becoming pivotal in the global truffle industry.”
Prior to planting in 2010, the truffles’ host tree – a native oak – was inoculated with truffle spores and the surrounding soil was made less acidic by treating it with lime.
The first Scottish truffles were analysed and used for further training but the largest –weighing 45 grams – was offered to Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin.
Mr Kitchin said: “Scottish truffles! How exciting! It would be a dream come true to get a good supply of Scottish truffles at The Kitchin.
“I’m really looking forward to trying them out in some of my favourite season dishes.”
The summer, or burgundy, truffles are prized for their intense flavour aroma, but their natural habitat in continental Europe has been affected by drought due to long-term climate change, and yields are falling while the global demand continues to rise. A recent report in the Climate Research journal, suggested that truffle cultivation potential in the UK is increasing due to climate change.
In partnership with local farmers, Dr Thomas, a director of Mycorrhizal Systems Ltd, has been cultivating truffles in the UK for the past decade. The company was the first to successfully cultivate UK native summer truffles in central England in 2015 and then in Wales in 2016.